UPDATED: Students weigh in on recent ‘SMU Clothing Drive,’ a drive for dining hall employees

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Up until yesterday, nondescript “SMU Clothing Drive” boxes were in Fondren Library and Umphrey Lee Dining Hall. What wasn’t well advertised was that SMU Dining Hall workers will be the recipients of the clothing.

SMU Dining Hall held a clothing drive for dining hall workers from Feb. 14 to Feb. 25. Few students or staff know the drive is for dining hall workers. The SMU Daily Campus worked to collect students’ input on the clothing drive. If you would like to share input on the clothing drive, please email our editor-in-chief, smagalio@smu.edu.

Zaid Mahrouq works closely with Matthew Thompson, SMU Dining Services’ Director of Operations, on limiting food wastage. Mahrouq’s organization is currently unchartered, but he hopes they’ll become chartered soon. Mahrouq was a catalyst at spreading the word on the drive for dining hall employees. “What Matt is doing with the clothing drive is truly remarkable,” Mahrouq said.

Some students expressed alarm SMU would allow employees who play a crucial role in students’ everyday wellness to rely on charity. Students and alumni found a glaring example of aggravated inequity and compared the dining hall employee wages to that of President R. Gerald Turner’s $3.3 million or Coach Sonny Dykes’ salary.

“While I encourage everyone to donate to this clothing drive, I must make it absolutely clear that I believe that the SMU Dining Services and Aramark are in truth letting down their employees,” Gaby Gonzalez, a Dedman School Senator, said.

Senior Zeinab Aly said, “I’m definitely frustrated that SMU employees aren’t being compensated enough that they’re resorting to asking students for donations.”

“I’m definitely frustrated that SMU employees aren’t being compensated enough that they’re resorting to asking students for donations.”

“I’m sure the students aren’t bothered to donate-we see these employees sometimes on a daily basis and have an established rapport with them; of course we’d want to help,” Aly said.

“Rather than giving employees a wage that would allow for them to buy basic necessities, SMU Dining Services and Aramark are turning to charity,” Gonzalez said. “I know that I am confused as to how two extremely profitable entities, SMU and Aramark, are able to pay their executives extravagantly, but not give its employees enough to purchase the most basic items.”

“I know that I am confused as to how two extremely profitable entities, SMU and Aramark, are able to pay their executives extravagantly, but not give its employees enough to purchase the most basic items.”

Audrey Ngo is a third year studying Health & Society, Human Rights, and French. She is a former SMU Senate diversity chair. “Within our motto of ‘world changers shaped here,’ an individual might expect compassion to be one of the molding traits,” Ngo said.

“Students are encouraged to grow while the school exhibits blatant disregard for its staff. Staff, who bear the brunt of students’ stress, exhaustion, and desire to achieve, must rely on charity for survival. It is an example of yet another institution that sees its very livelihood as a means of profit,” Ngo said.

“Staff, who bear the brunt of students’ stress, exhaustion, and desire to achieve, must rely on charity for survival. It is an example of yet another institution that sees its very livelihood as a means of profit.”

Cheyenne Murray is a Human Rights and History major. Murray is also a Rotunda scholar. She says the clothing drive is indicative of a greater human rights issue.

“The dining staff are some of the most dedicated and hardworking staff members on campus, and it’s incredibly disheartening to see that they aren’t being valued or paid enough to provide for basic necessities. It’s also infuriating that students–who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend SMU–are expected to pick up the work,” Murray said.

“It’s also infuriating that students–who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend SMU–are expected to pick up the work.”

SMU contracts its dining services from Aramark.

“There is simply too much money going into this institution for any of its employees being forced to rely on donations,” Murray said. “Whether the problem is with the university’s dining services or with Aramark, it needs to be addressed by the people who actually have the power to do something about it.”

“How can I justify a human rights degree from a university that isn’t respecting the rights of its own employees?”

Murray said, “How can I justify a human rights degree from a university that isn’t respecting the rights of its own employees?”

On the matter of donation, the Shop, in Fondren Library, is purposed to provide non-perishable food and basic essentials to students experiencing food insecurity. Student Affairs’ Director of Student Support, Elsie Johnson, is responsible for The Shop with Fondren Library. Johnson said they could not extend The Shop to staff, because people donate with the intention of benefiting students. She said community agencies would best serve staff’s needs. Johnson did not know the clothing drive was for dining hall employees.

At this time, the Daily Campus is unable to discern how much of dining hall employee wages are under SMU’s purview. Dining Services’ Director of Operations, Matthew Thompson, declined to comment on the clothing drive or answer any questions on SMU Dining Hall employees. The Daily Campus is reaching out to the Senior Director of Dining Services, Todd Robinson, for comment.

SMU Clothing Driving Donations.jpeg
One clothing drive box in Umphrey Lee Dining. Photo credit: Gaby Gonzalez

Updated Wed Feb. 27, 3:25 p.m: Student Darcy Wyatt said, “After hearing some concerns online about why SMU’s dining services workers were needing clothing donations, I decided to ask a trusted worker for information they might know about the drive. They explained that it would mainly be used for the very newest hires, as people are occasionally in desperate need when first hired. The drive is meant to supplement their new income and help them get on their feet before their first paycheck.”

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